Recovery progressing at 1000 Steps
Friday 25 March, 2022
Severe storms in 2021 had a significant impact on the Dandenong Ranges National Park and among the hardest hit sites was the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (1000 Steps) in Ferntree Gully.
One of Melbourne’s most popular bushwalking destinations, the iconic 1.4 km track was extensively impacted, with an estimated 150 trees falling in the steep forested location. The impact dislodged many of the track’s concrete steps and caused extensive damage to the safety handrailing and support posts.
Recovery and repair of the track continues to progress, with Parks Victoria hopeful of being able to re-open the site in late 2022, supported by a $6.6 million investment from the Victorian Government for recovery works in storm-affected parks and reserves.
Above: The storms uprooted trees, dislodged steps and damaged handrailing along the 1000 Steps.
A challenging recovery task
Parks Victoria has conducted a comprehensive assessment of the track and put in place a strategic program of recovery works to restore visitor access as soon as it’s safe to do so.
The scale of the damage combined with the steep narrow terrain leading up the mountain has made access and the recovery task incredibly challenging. Despite these trying conditions, Park Rangers have made solid progress, clearing debris, branches and timber away from the track.
To make the track safe for walkers and visitors, the recovery task now requires clearing the track of remaining hazardous trees and branches, repairing the steps and replacing sections of the damaged hand railing.
Above: Fallen trees damaged handrailing and blocked sections of track along the 1000 Steps.
Other tracks, visitor and picnic areas open
Fortunately, Parks Victoria's recovery work has enabled all other walking tracks in the area to be opened, and as an alternative experience to the 1000 Steps, the nearby Lyrebird Track is available as a two-way walking trail up the mountain. The area’s visitor site is also open including the car park and onsite café, as well as the picnic area at the top of the walk at One Tree Hill.
Reflecting on the storms event and the recovery task underway, Victoria Purdue, District Manager, said:
“Unfortunately, the 1000 Steps track was impacted by storm events last June and again in October and the damage was considerable.
“Many large trees and branches fell across the track, dislodging many of the concrete steps and damaging vast sections of safety handrailing and posts.
“Our crews have done a fantastic job to firstly assess the damage, and then to put together a strategic recovery plan. Significant progress has been made to clear debris and fallen trees from the track, which hasn’t been easy given the limited space in which to work.”
Above: The scenic Lyrebird Track adjacent to the 1000 Steps is open to visitors and hikers.
Safety key to re-opening the 1000 Steps
The task ahead to re-open the 1000 Steps is focused largely on the removal of any remaining hazardous trees and to repair the damaged steps and replace the handrails.
“Repairing damaged facilities such as stone steps and handrails along the track is a complex process that will take time to complete, as we must work through insurance processes, safety works, cultural heritage assessments, and planning and building permits,” said Victoria.
“It will also be a labour-intensive task as all materials will need to be carried in by hand.”
Parks Victoria is most grateful to visitors who have been patient and respectful of the closures put in place, and we're working hard to restore access to the track by the end of the year subject to it being deemed safe for hikers and visitors.
“Although the 1000 Steps are closed, we encourage people to visit the Ferntree Gully Picnic Area and experience all that Dandenong Ranges National Park has to offer, including the walk up Lyrebird Track which follows a similar alignment to the 1000 Steps,” said Victoria.
Kokoda Track tribute and memorials
Created in the early 1900s, the 1000 Steps walk was originally made from tree fern trunks laid along the wetter areas of the track to make the climb easier. These were replaced by wooden palings, and more permanent concrete steps have since been installed.
Along the trail there are memorial plaques dedicated to the Australian Military Forces who fought and died on the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea. The veterans of the Kokoda campaign adopted the park as a memorial site in the late 1990s, and the similarity of the walk to the first 100 metres of the Kokoda Track resulted in the establishment of the plaques along the walk.
Fortunately, none of the memorial plaques were significantly impacted by last year’s storm events.
Above: Memorials and plaques honour the Kokoda Track Campaign during WWII.
Focus on environmental and cultural significance
During the recovery works, careful consideration is given to ensure the balance between the removal of hazards and retention for environmental benefits, and works are carried out mindful of minimising any impact on environmental and cultural values.
Parks Victoria recognises that fallen trees provide valuable habitat for our wildlife, and where appropriate, fallen trees and debris material important for protecting biodiversity values is left in place.
Please remember to observe signage and stay out of fenced or taped off work areas present at the 1000 Steps and report any instances of fallen or leaning trees and branches to Parks Victoria on 13 1963.
For more information about the Kokoda Track Memorial Walk (1000 Steps) visit the Parks Victoria webpage: 1000 Steps Walk